For Marissa Miller, pitcher for the Pacific Lutheran University softball team, the game has become easier thanks to her faith her teammates.
Faith can lead to many great accomplishments for an athlete — the combination of belief and understanding of yourself that allows a player to exceed their expectations on the field of play.
For Miller, a two-time player of the week out of the Northwest Conference and former Puyallup High standout, her faith has led to her to great heights.
“I got the two (Northwest Conference awards) from our trip down in California,” Miller said. “Our team looked really good and came out strong. Our team defense has been better and better each year.”
This season Miller has a 7-3 personal record with a 2.85 earned run average in 59 innings pitched.
“It’s a good to receive awards, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates making the plays and getting the outs behind me,” Miller said.
Pitchers must have faith in themselves, but most importantly, the belief that the teammates behind them will be there when the action starts as the ball is put in play.
“You have to trust your catcher is going to block the balls in the dirt, and trust that if you pitch to contact that the defense will make the play and help you out,” Miller said.
And she’s needed that faith. Miller has put up terrific stats so far on the season, but her 37 walks compared to her 31 strikeouts show her trust in teammates to get the job done, as the Lute defense has helped Miller out one jam after another.
“Our defense keeps getting better each year, and as a pitcher, you have more confidence when you know the defense is going to make the plays behind you,” she said.
Back in 2014 when Miller was the ace of Puyallup’s Class 4A state-winning squad, there wasn’t always a need for the Vikings’ defense. Miller had the situation under control.
Even then, the Puyallup defensive squad — a unit that included current PLU teammate Baily Plumb — helped Miller look good but there just wasn’t much of a need at the high school level.
“The preparations for college is not the same as high school,” Miller said. “You have to prepare for three to four games in a week in college. It takes more time in understanding the team your facing, and when you’re not pitching, you have to scout opponents so you can gain an idea on how to pitch to them when it’s your turn in the rotation.”
But the game certainly changed once Miller reached Pacific Lutheran for her freshman year at the school (2014-2015), where the world became so much bigger than she was accustomed to.
“That first year was a real learning experience for me. After going into the offseason I knew what I needed to do to improve myself,” Miller said.
It’s not easy to make the adjustments in the college game of softball, but after picking up two NWC awards at the start of the season, Miller has shown she is one her PLU teammates can put their faith in.
After all, faith is the most powerful tool in a pitcher’s arsenal.
“Without that trust, I wouldn’t be able to pitch at the level I have been able to pitch at this season,” Miller said.